Arizona Women's Basketball

Arizona Wildcats Rout Tennessee State, Set Record for Program’s Best Start at 10-0


To shed some light on how meaningful No. 18 Arizona’s record start of 10-0 is to the program consider that in 19 seasons since the program started in 1972-73, the Wildcats have won 10 games or less.

Arizona has experienced more than its fair share of records such as 5-23, 6-25 and 8-22, to name a few.. Only two years ago, in Adia Barnes‘ second season, the Wildcats finished 6-24. After two years as head coach at her alma mater, Barnes was 20-40.

Now, with her fourth season just beginning, Barnes went over the .500 mark for the first time since her first season of 2016-17 with Thursday night’s 77-42 rout of Tennessee State. She stands at 54-53 with the last 16 of those games victories dating to last season’s memorable run to a WNIT title.

The 19 seasons with 10 wins or less is approximately half of Arizona’s existence. That’s a whole lot of mediocrity.

Not this year. Not now. Not with Barnes establishing herself as one of the top young coaches (45 and younger) in the nation.

“It shows what their hard work, what they are aspiring to do and they want to leave their legacy — they’re starting to do that,” Barnes said. “It’s really big for the program considering where we were two years ago, where we were in my first year. It’s a drastic difference so I’m proud for those reasons.”

The win over Tennessee State — behind Cate Reese’s career-high 23 points and six rebounds and Aari McDonald’s 17 points and 12 rebounds — tonight in front of 3,891 fans at McKale Center allowed Arizona to top the 9-0 starts of the teams in 1995-96 and 1999-2000.

Barnes was a member of the 1995-96 team.

That team coached by Joan Bonvicini went to 9-1 after No. 7 Stanford came to McKale Center and won 77-55 in front of 3,710 fans. Barnes led the Wildcats with 14 points in that game but she was 6 of 16 from the field with four turnovers.

The 1999-2000 team became 9-1 with a 71-68 loss at Kansas on Dec. 21, 1999. Starting guards Julie Brase (Lute Olson’s granddaughter) and Felecity Willis went scoreless in that game.

“I think it reflects on how hard we’ve been working in the offseason and now,” Reese said of the 10-0 start. “The recruits that we’ve got are helping us build the program up.”

Barnes, in her first 100 games as Arizona’s coach, led the Wildcats to a WNIT title in 2018-19, a season that included the longest winning streak in a season — 11 games.

The Wildcats have broken that record, winning 16 consecutive games dating to last season’s six-game run in the WNIT. It is the longest winning streak in the nation. In that championship win over Northwestern, Arizona broke the Pac-12 attendance record with a packed arena of 14,644 fans.

Cate Reese was the honorary bang-the-drum player after her career-high 23 points (Arizona Athletics photo)

The No. 18 ranking in the AP Top 25 poll is the highest since the 2002-03 season. Arizona does not play again until Dec. 21, when it hosts UC Santa Barbara. The Wildcats could move up from No. 18 and have their highest ranking since Feb. 14, 2000 when they were No. 15.

Arizona was never threatened against Tennessee State after building a 17-6 lead in the first quarter. Reese already had 12 points by then on 5-of-7 shooting.

By halftime, Reese still outscored Tennessee State 19-18 boosting the Wildcats to a 37-18 halftime lead.

Reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Cate Reese outscored Tennessee State 19-18 in the first half and finished with 23 points and six rebounds (Troy Hutchison/AllSportsTucson.com)

Arizona continued to pull away after halftime against the Tigers (1-7) with senior Lucia Alonso and sophomore Bryce Nixon each scoring seven points in the second half and McDonald posting eight.

The Wildcats shot 53.8 percent in the second half and 50 percent overall. They did struggle at the free throw line shooting 68.0 percent (17 of 25).

Aari McDonald had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds against Tennessee State (Troy Hutchison/AllSportsTucson.com)

Arizona also had 24 turnovers, which drew the ire of Barnes. “I should be a lot more happy right now,” she said after the game, although she said that with a laugh.

The Wildcats, second in the nation entering the game limiting opponents to 28.8 percent shooting, held Tennessee State to 25.9 percent from the field. The Tigers were also a mere 28.6 percent from 3-point range.


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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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